Feb 27, 2011

Another Cerebral Sunday. Living (and Perhaps Loving) the Aesop Life. Malt-Easter. Baby Love.

hocRemember how I was lost in thought over the Sunday paper last week?  And all that intelligent prose it inspired?

Neuroanatomy buffs, did you spot the bottle shaped area (the Skincare Cortex) on the Aesop brain?
This Sunday, I took Cerebral Sunday literally with this geeky cool anatomical bag from Aesop.

Underneath the mirror is a quote from Oscar Wilde, 'A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at'.  How true when it comes to booking holidays.  But perhaps not for those times when you're trying to come to grips with current world events.
I have rediscovered 'plant-based organics and non botanical elements', to quote the rather arty Aesop catalogue.  I'm going on a hair detox.  It's time to bid a fond farewell to the silicone rich world of Pantene and embrace rosemary leaf, lavender stem and tangerine rind.  And for those days when my hair is needing a little more TLC, there are rose petals and beta carotene (by way of that melon coloured tube in the photo above).  Does anyone else make major lifestyle changes for their hair or do I just have too much time on my hands?  Don't answer that one. 

Who knows what impact the addition of Aesop to my hair will have on the rest of my life?  The products are advocated as 'part of a blanced life that included a healthy diet, sensible exercise, a moderate intake of red wine (which I will substitute for with champagne) and a regular dose of good books'.  People, let's make 2011 the year we all lead the Aesop life.

Just after I get my fill of these MaltEaster bunnies.

There has to be some incentive to going to the servo on a Sunday, doesn't there?

For the Malteser fans, these bunnies don't crunch when you eat their ears off first (that's also how I eat Caramello koalas, when it's Haigh's frogs - I just eat the whole head off first and there you have it).  So now you know.  The Malteser filling is soft and whipped and yes, no Maltesers were harmed in the making of the bunnies.

But wait, there's more Easter food news.  I'm continuing my state wide search for the perfect chocolate hot cross bun.  Today's are from Coles.  22% choc chip and at a dozen for $6, pretty good value.

They are very good zapped in the microwave.  Lots of chocolate and a well flavoured light dough.  A perfect accompaniment to the Sunday papers which were running Princess Mary on the front page.  Yes, there is an election in a month but it's a foregone conclusion.  There's also the Oscars tomorrow (our time) but I agree, an Australian princess with twins and 16 staff (no wonder Princess Mary looks so relaxed) to care for the brood does take precendence.

I don't really go weak at the knees over Royal baby photos, but aren't the Danish twins adorable?  The photos are amazing.  Very warm and relaxed.

Some people may have photos  of supermodels on their fridges to motivate them into making lifestyle changes but those babies were too cute not to take pride of place on the front of our fridge.

PS:  Galactic, I don't know if you've had a chance to read any blogs at the moment but BEST OF LUCK for 'the quiz'.  Not sure if you're sitting it this year.

Alternatively, if you're reading this after the event, hope it went okay.  And enjoy the rest of the week of freedom.

SSG xxx

Feb 26, 2011

Tell the Truth, Work Hard and Come Home to Dinner on Time.

Damn straight.

Guess where I found those words of wisdom?  Out the front of  Sportsgirl.  I'm not sure what getting home for dinner in time has to do with fashion.  It's a sign of how far I've drifted away from Sportsgirl's target market, I guess.  Still, there is great wisdom in those words.  They would make a great tea towel design, in my humble opinion.  I'd buy one of those over a pair of drop crotch, skinny leg cargo pants in khaki any day.  Skinny leg, cargo pants yes but N-O to the drop crotch component.

I've been to the hairdressers again today.  I figured if I couldn't fix the state of my hair by experimenting with various household liquids then perhaps the experts could help.  They did.  It took a couple of hours of lathering and layering and blow drying but I now have hair that is somwhere between here.


And here.  Length and layer wise, I mean. 

Cheers for that, Jennifer.  I think I may have to change my name to Rachel by deed poll.  It is very liberating having shoulder length, layered hair though.  It's going to wash like a dream and be a cinch to blow dry.  An added bonus of today's trip to the hairdressers was that I got through the latest issues of all the Park St magazines, for free. 

It was a beautiful day in Sydney today.  There was sun, warmth and a slight breeze.  All the better for adding bounce to both ones step and hair.

An action shot.  All will be reviewed in a few weeks....

 The people at Louis Vuitton were spreading the sunshine with glasses of orange juice.  They didn't have Diet Coke though they did have champagne.  As it was before noon, I didn't pursue the matter.

Late last night, I was blogging about how I was feeling India (in Park St speak) as an inspiration for dinner tonight.  I took these photos at the front windows of one of the Indian restaurants we call our 'local'.  They do a mean butter chicken.
With these colourful images of India on my mind, I went to yoga and tried hard not to think about dinner during the quieter poses.

As you may recall, I make no secret of my love of the Indian ready meal area of Coles.  Especially when there's a packet of discounted vegetable samosas on offer.

It was a cheat's Indian dinner at SSG Manor tonight.  I got the butter chicken paste from an Indian grocer in Ashfield.  I figure if the store owner personally picked out the Maharajah's Choice brand for me, that had to count for something.

The Coles samosas are very good.  Not too spicy and with a generous pea based filling.  The cucumber raita has great flavour and is so much more convenient than trying to make your own.

Be still my twitchy arteries.  Look at that butter simmer!  The use of oil to prevent browning of the butter really does work.

More Coles merchandise.  I was keen to try their garlic naans.  I borrowed a Jamie Oliver trick to reheat them.  All you do is wet a large piece of scrunched up baking paper before flattening it and coating it with some oil and turmeric.  Place your naans on top and then add some more oil and turmeric over the pile.  Wrap up the parcel and heat in the oven for 10 minutes.  This method really does preserve some moisture in the naans and also adds some crunch and flavour.  Supermarket taste and texture gone in 10 minutes!

Well, I'm going off to lounge for a bit.  Have a great evening, everyone.

Feb 25, 2011

Chilling Out With Some Famous Italians Besides Silvio On Friday Night.

Ahhhh.  It's Friday evening at last.  Have you unwound from the week that was yet?  There is so much pressure sometimes to get over the week by around 9pm on the Friday so that the weekend can officially start and no precious hours of it are lost on boring things like household chores and the supermarket....

Anyway, I'm good.  I'm glowing with a faint sheen of Aesop Geranium Leaf moisturizer and a few drops of Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Complex on my face.  Then there's my Jo Malone Grapefruit candle burning as well.  Have I missed any major cosmetic house in those sentences of shameless name dropping?  Does anyone else have  weakness for good packaging and product fragrancing?  Guilty as charged.

Silvio Berlusconi is probably the most (in)famous Italian in the collective consciousness at the moment but tonight, let's reacquaint ourselves with some other less lascivious luminaries.

Don't you love opening a new bottle of perfume?  It's a just reward for dutifully finishing your previous bottle of perfume first.  Flora is light and floral but not in a ditzy way.  It's got that sleek and glossy European edge to it.  When I wear a cloud of Flora and those new bamboo horsebit specs to work, I sometimes get a bit disappointed that the the sentences that flow when I open my mouth are not in Italian or even languidly accented English?

Would I get the accent if I had an all Italian dinner?

It was pasta night at SSG Manor.  Because pizza would have been way too slack and unhealthy.  I went to the Italian grocers on the weekend and found this fabulous pasta.  I love the blue ribbon that graces the packet.  It will always be bow tie pasta to me, rather than farfalle.

It has been an evening of glorious excess.  The pasta was decidedly free form.  I threw in quite a few Italian and Continental ingredients from the fridge and pantry.

Even Telstra got in on the act.  Yes, readers, that is a cheque made out to me from our national telco.  I'm not going to query this act of corporate largesse.  But, thank you, Helstra.  Had to slip in a cheeky Freudian slip there....

Here's a progress shot of my Everything In Pasta. I'm telling you, with a couple of chorizos sizzling away in your fry pan, Everything In becomes Excellent With An Exclamation Mark!

Okay, so it's not quite high fashion pasta but look at those bow ties.  Haven't they held up remarkably well through the boiling and the final cooking?  The Life and Leisure segment from the AFR is courtesy of Mr SSG.  I just know that model on the cover is eyeing off my pasta.

Are you watching Park Street?  It's a behind the scenes look at some of the big mainstream Australian fashion magazines.  Our industry is much smaller than the US and UK ones and everyone just seems so much more relaxed and nice.  I am in awe of that lipgloss organization I spied on the computer of one of the editors.  But my favourite character is the advertising campaign head honcho-ess.  She's ballsy, she's real and her passion is contagious.  I love her black tortoise specs.  I knew I was onto a winner with my new black rimmed specs. 

I might just go out and buy a CLEO tomorrow...  On the way to the hairdresser.

Well, that's it from me.  Hope you've got a great weekend planned.  I'll be back tomorrow.  I am feeling India as the inspiration for our Saturday night post yoga dinner.  I'm already speaking fashion after just half an hour on Park Street.  Might just have to give up my day job.

Feb 23, 2011

Listography - My 5 Ingredients For A Perfect Day.

Tonight, I thought I'd join in on Kate's (from Kate Takes 5)  Listography Topic of the Week

The theme is 'My 5 Ingredients For A Perfect Day'. *

The world isn't a very nice place at the moment.  The recent political turmoils and natural disasters  have shattered our planet, yet again.  Will the continuous stream of images of death and destruction provoke us into action?  Encourage us to lend a helping hand?  Reassure us that whatever we may complain about in our own lives really isn't the end of the world (it could be and often is much worse for other people)?  Is God trying to tell us something about ourselves, I wonder?

Big questions for which I have no good answers.

I think we all deserve a little wander into a happier, dreamier place than the real world.....

So, my perfect day would involve the following, in no particular order.

1.  Getting a little dressed up.

I'm really loving Invisible Zinc at the moment.  The Silk Shield foundation stick especially.  It glides on and blends so easily to a natural, matte finish.  I've even been able to apply it every day before work for the last 2 days!  That's some kind of record.

Stepping out with a few glam accessories always lends a special touch to the day.

2.  Adequate hydration.

Coffee to start the day.

Bubbles later on. 

And lots of water in between.

3.  A soak in the bath made with a LUSH bubble bar with some trashy magazines to keep me company.

4. Baking.

The scent of vanilla and butter, the feel of dough between my fingers.

5.  Sun, glorious sun!

*  Mr SSG isn't technically an ingredient, which is why he isn't part of the list. But he would be a crucial part of a perfect day.

The Weeknight Book Club: House Rules by Jodi Picoult


I'm still on my Jodi Picoult blitz at the moment.  Jodi has a new novel, Sing You Home coming out soon so I think now that I'm in the Picoult groove, I'll be trying to get my hands on the Kindle version of it as soon as possible.  It's meant to be about assisted conception and the ethical issues surrounding this.  Given recent events in my life, I'm beginning to wonder if the book may be too confronting for the moment.  Might have to rethink this idea.

I've probably said this in my previous reviews of Picoult novels but reading her work for me is a chance to become fully immersed in the lives of 'real people' who live with chronic medical and social disorders.  Jodi is very skilled at creating fully rounded accounts of just what it's like to live with a disease that permeates every single aspect of not only the patient's life but also those closest to them.  At times, the internal dialogues are so vivid, I find myself getting irritated at characters, so immersed have I become in the action.  Sure, the plots may get predictable at times but it's all about the journey and scenery along the way, sometimes.

House Rules is a novel about Asperger's Syndrome, the sub type of autism where its sufferers are often highly functioning in areas that fascinate them but have crippling social ineptitude and a low threshold for dealing with people or experiences they do not like.  There is a heightened perception of sensation so one of the interventions for people with Asperger's is the use of 'sensory rooms' to try and relax them.  It is implied often that people with Asperger's are 'selfish' in their interaction with others.  They may seem arrogant or condescending due to their poor ability to respond 'appropriately' in social situations.

I am linking to a review and reader discussion of the novel here.

Emma is a single mother who has two children, one of whom (Theo) is 'neurotypical' and the other, Jacob who has Asperger's.  Emma has devoted her life to caring for Jacob and their life is a highly structured routine of colour coded foods, clothing, times to attend school, watch television and even to visit the shops.  Emma has done all she can to see that Jacob leads a normal life by attending school and socializing within the limtis of his illness.  House Rules are what Emma and Theo must follow to the letter in order to reduce the chances of Jacob slipping back into 'meltdowns' and 'stimming' (repetitive flapping actions of the arms).

Jacob's passion in life is forensic science.  He creates his own crime scenes, he religiously watches Crime Busters on television and he has his own crime lab.

Jess Ogilvy is Jacob's social skills tutor.  Jacob is attracted to her however Jess is older and maintains a strictly professional relationship with him.  She also has a boyfriend who really has no empathy for Jacob.  There are times that Jacob does get brave enough to profess his feelings.  However Jess is either oblivious to his actions or else very tactfully chooses to ignore them.

Life is not easy for Jacob's family.  Theo, the younger son, has spent most of his life being 'the afterthought' in his mother's life as she struggles to give Jacob the resources, structure and attention he needs.  Not only does he come off second best in his mother's attention but Jacob also has a habit of ruining every attempt that Theo makes to 'just be one of the guys'.  Theo loves his brother dearly and also knows that he'll be the one responsible for Jacob should their mother no longer be able to care for him.

How can Theo compensate for a lifetime of broken promises and being the outsider at home and school?  He breaks into houses and tries to absorb the lives of 'normal happy families'.  He eats their food, he steals small items but most of all he has a reality break whilst sitting in these homes. 

Unfortunately, one day, he enters the house that Jess is house sitting.  She was surprised in the shower.  Theo leaves in a hurry (dropping the iPod he stole).  Jess is later found dead and partially dressed some distance from her house.  There is evidence to suggest that Jacob was in the house.  Who killed Jess?  How did she die?

The focus of the novel then shifts to Jacob and the aftermath of his being very keen to tell the police what he was doing at the crime scene.  His poor ability to take non verbal cues from the police sees him virtually confessing to the crime. Jacob does not see imprisonment at the end of his talks with the investigators, he sees attention, the chance to 'tell the truth' and possibly a chance to outsmart them.

A common criticism of this novel has been its predictable plot and almost text book approach at 'educating' readers about Asperger's and autism.  I think that these are also strengths of the novel.  The simple plot leaves more room for character development, which is one of Picoult's great strengths.  The amount of research presented about the syndrome I found to be very educational in a very readable way.

House Rules may not be the most suspenseful murder mystery out there but for me, Jodi provided an opportunity to break out from the uneventful stability of my life and to be a 'house guest' in the lives of other people with vastly different lives as I turn the pages of her novels.

PS: I'm currently reading a biography of Wallis Simpson!  There's no murder, mystery, blood or gore involved.  I hope to channel some of the chic, scandal and glamour of the late Wallis S for my next book review.

SSG xxx

Feb 22, 2011

The First Hot Cross Buns of Easter 2011.

I held out for as long as I could.  I don't know how things are in your neck of the woods, but Easter foods have been in my local supermarkets since roughly the week after Christmas.  It started with a trickle of baby chocolate Easter eggs discretely hooked up at the check outs and then the stacks of hot cross buns that have invaded the bakery area.
Last night, Mr SSG came home with these.

It's a bit scary when you receive a NAP catalgue beause you're now one of their 'special' customers.  Not a word to Mr SSG.  Not.  A.  Word.

Baker's Delight Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns. 

It's the last week of February, I think I've held out long enough.  I had a couple for dinner whislt trying to read the latest Net-A-Porter catalogue which I personalized very creatively.  The catalogue is the size of your average issue of an Australian fashion magazine (ie not as heavy as the hard hitting American and European titles) but jam packed with the latest runway photos and definitive fashion directives.  Oh, and Alexa Chung!
It was basically fashion icon overload.  Or perhaps it was the sugar and chocolate.  All I could manage was the Alexa spread before needing to find the sofa for a bit of a lie down.  The spectacle of all that luxe fashion being available from the one website was overwhelming, even for hard nosed e-shoppers like myself.

Other than that, it's not been too exciting at SSG Manor.

These are some photos by which to remember the deliciousness that was the Jamie Oliver Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli Cannelloni from Sunday night.

It was great fun making them.

Stuffing the cannelloni shells with the vegetable filling.

Tearing apart the bocconcini for that decadent third cheese part of the topping.

Before finally drizzling some olive oil over the whole lot.

I think I'm going to have a quiet night in tonight.  It's so wintery at the moment here in Sydney.  I'm trying to finish my current Kindle book so that I can review it here soon.  Oh and finalize my itinerary for the Honolulu and Darwin Grand Tour in May.  Should I take the NAP catalogue as a shopping guide, I wonder?

Take care and have a good one.

Feb 20, 2011

Cerebral Sunday.

Out in the She Shed having a snack and a re-read of the Sunday supplement.

I hate to say this, but it usually takes me about 5 minutes to read the Sunday paper.  Even then, it's only because I read the lifestyle and fashion supplements from cover to cover.  Everything else seems to have enough news value (to me) to be flicked through quickly.  Sometimes, there's barely enough time spent on a page for the crumbs from my toast to find a home on the news print.

Today was different.

Perhaps it was because I've been in a pretty reflective frame of mind today and moving through the day much more slowly than usual but a few of the regular columns gave me lots to think about today.

I always enjoy Mia Freedman's 'Life Matters' column.  Mia writes about life with large serves of  humour, intelligence and real life experience.  She has a great web page and sends heart felt replies to fan emails.  Besides having had an illustrious career in the women's magazine industry in Australia, she has also written her memoirs in a sometimes hilarious and sometimes painfully heart breaking book called Mama Mia.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.  I think it's a book that will go down as a rite of passage for thirtysomething Australian women.  As a Dolly editor, Mia was that older sister you never had in real life.


In today's column, Mia was discussing the half truths that many a celebrity discloses in those 'intimate interviews'.  On the less serious side, there's the line about 'heaps of water and fresh air' being the celebrity secrets to 'eternal youth'.  Which those of us in our thirties know isn't even half the equation.  And then there's the issue of the 'miracle' baby born to forty something actresses.  Mia's argument is that these seemingly throwaway comments that are now so commonly printed set up women in the real world for heartbreak and constant self doubt and hatred when their own lives don't measure up. 

On one level, I like to think I'm smarter than this.  That I can discriminate fact from fiction, that celebrity lifestyle choices don't matter to me.  With regard to 'cosmetic procedures' and assisted conception, I feel that these are private decisions It's not really my business what anyone else choses to do with their lives.  However, I do see Mia's point about the accumulation of celebrity half truths and its collective effect on women's self esteem.  Perhaps it's time for us to consciously ignore the popular media and simply be happy and content with what our lives hold for us right now.  Isn't that something your mother (and mine) has told you many times?

I also read Sarah Wilson's column regularly.  This week, Sarah interviewed Nick Vujicic, an Australian motivational speaker who has no arms or legs.  Sarah and Nick approach life from two different spiritual realms.  Whilst Sarah interprets life in her own 'secular way', Nick looks at his life from the perspective of God's role in it. 

Nick talks about how he overcame his frustration and pain over his physical condition to not only succeed in life but to also reach out and help many others.  To me, the most powerful quote of the interview was this. 

"If you can't resolve your own issues, be the solution for someone else.  If you don't love yourself, then give yourself away."

I think it's so easy to forget this when it seems that life is just so hard and painful.

I'm inspired to read more of Sarah's work on her blog here.

The last article that made me think this morning was the Cyndi Lauper interview on the back page of the 'life' supplement.  Can you believe it?  Cyndi's been married for 19 years, is now 57 and has an adult son.  I really enjoy reading about musicians and how they've changed as maturity, fame and adult responsibilites have happened to them.  Their perspective on life now is so different to what the lyrics of their songs from several decades ago hinted at. 

Cyndi was discussing the way lyrics from many modern male artists seem to be about nothing but misogyny.  She talked about how she understood that as a young man from a troubled background, those lyrics may be apropriate to their life situation but she questioned why some of these men never seem to move on from this theme once they become established stars.  In her words, they need to "Grow up, move on.  Don't carry your baggage with you your whole life."

Don't worry, I wasn't inside the house all day thinking hard about life.  I had a cup of coffee somewhere.  I like the elongated blurs of this Hipsta photo.

This has turned out to be a rather ponderous post, hasn't it?  It's good to be able to be still in the world for a bit and have a real think about life.  Not just where you have to be next or what you still need to do but about your psychological travels through life experiences. 

Never fear, things don't stay too serious for too long around here.  I'm halfway through a batch of Jamie Oliver's Incredible Baked Cauliflower and Broccolli Cannelloni.  It's food for comfort to accompany a day of food for thought.

Here's to this coming week being a good one everyone.  Take care.


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